Valaika Helps USA Baseball Win Gold at FISU World University Championships

Aug. 9, 2004

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara shortstop Chris Valaika acquired some new jewelry this summer, helping the USA Baseball National Team capture the gold medal at the FISU World University Championships in Tainan, Taiwan. In the championship game on Aug. 1, center fielder Drew Stubbs of Texas hit the game-winning two-run triple in the fifth inning as the national team came from behind to defeat Japan 4-2 in Tainan Stadium. The victory capped a perfect 8-0 run through the seven-team tournament, and vindicated a five-game sweep at the hands of the Japanese in July. The American squad, coached by Loyola Marymount's Frank Cruz, won 12 of its final 14 games and finished its 25-game summer tour with an 18-7 overall record. Valaika played in 18 games for Team USA - starting 10 - and batted .239 with one home run and 10 RBI. He started the FISU title game at second base, going one-for-two with a run scored. The Newhall, Calif., native earned starts in three other tourney contests.

Valaika (center) and his USA Baseball teammates celebrate their gold medal performance along with Assistant Coach Jack Smitheran.

In 2004 Valaika enjoyed one of the best freshman campaigns in UCSB history, finishing among the top-five Gauchos in nine major offensive categories. His 77 hits led Santa Barbara and also broke Chris Malec's 2002 record of 75 hits by a freshman. The Newhall, Calif., native finished second on the team with a .347 average and second with seven home runs. His 119 total bases led the team and his 195 assists at shortstop was the most in the Big West Conference. Fr his accomplishments, He was named a Freshman All-American by both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball, as well as the Big West Freshman of the Year. Valaika is no stranger to international baseball. He helped Team USA earn a silver medal at the 2003 Pan American Games in the Dominican Republic, hitting .385 with two home runs and a pair of doubles. Earlier in his career, Valiaka won a gold medal while playing with the Americans' 16-and-under squad at the 2001 World Games in Veracruz, Mexico.